SNP PLANS TO CENTRALISE the management of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) were placed in disarray when opposition parties inflicted a defeat on the proposals at Holyrood.
In a crunch vote on the issue on Wednesday the government lost against a determined opposition from the Tories, LibDems and Green members.
Following the defeat, economy secretary Keith Brown promised that plans to centralise the HIE board would now be reconsidered with meeting being held with opposition members to find a solution. The SNP have faced fierce opposition to their plans amid claims that it would take away control and expertise of HIE from the area it exists to serve.
After speaking against the proposals, regional MSP Douglas Ross insisted the 64/63 vote was a victory for common sense: “Countless individuals have warned the SNP about the threats to economic development if they continue with their plans to subsume HIE into a national body and now Parliament has made its view clear.
“The SNP should listen to local communities, and now Parliament, and scrap these ill-thought through proposals.
“HIE has done great work for decades across the Highlands and Islands and during the debate members from all parties highlighted the positive work they have done – which begs the question, why do the SNP want to change it by merging HIE with three other bodies into a national organisation.
“The benefit of having HIE based in the region is vital to ensure that they can continue to promote local solutions to local circumstances.
“What will not be forgotten by communities across the area is how SNP MSPs just like their councillors when this was recently put to the vote, decided to support their party bosses at the expense of local communities they are supposed to represent.
“Scottish Conservatives believe these plans for HIE centralisation should be shelved and now Parliament has given the same message. It’s time for the Scottish Government and SNP politicians to ditch the proposals and let HIE get back to work it does across the Highlands and Islands.”
Keith Brown said he remained committed to the services and support that HIE provides to communities throughout the Highlands, Islands and Moray.
He said: “I believe the everyone shares a commitment to HIE and to retaining its key role in future. We are actively engaging with all four enterprise and skills agencies, their existing boards and other experts in developing the detailed scope, potential structures and functions for a new board.
“That is why I will listen carefully to and work closely with them and MSPs from across the chamber to explore constructive ideas about how we can deliver better economic and social outcomes for the Highlands and Islands and all of Scotland. I will come back to the chamber to provide an update in due course.”